Tag Archives: Maggie Stiefvater

All the Crooked Saints, by Maggie Stiefvater

All the Crooked SaintsThe Soria family was driven from their home in Mexico because the people there were afraid of their magical powers, so they settled in the Colorado desert in a place they call Bicho Raro. Pilgrims come from all over the world to ask for a miracle. The first half of the miracle is that the saint will make your darkness visible in concrete form. The second half of the miracle is distressingly difficult and sometimes endless: the pilgrim has to find a way to deal with his own darkness before he is healed, with no help at all from the saint, the saint’s family, or anyone who loves a Soria. If the saint tries to help the pilgrim, his own darkness will come out, and a Soria’s darkness is much, much worse than any pilgrim’s.

Joaquin Soria and his cousin Beatriz run an AM radio station from the back of a box truck that has been abandoned in the desert. Their cousin, Daniel, is the current saint of Bicho Raro. Pete Wyatt is on his way to Bicho Raro, because he has been promised that he can work for the Sorias in exchange for a certain box truck. Unfortunately, Pete is bringing disaster along with him.

True confession: I have been a Maggie Stiefvater fan for years. If she writes it, I will read it. I had no idea how she could follow the spectacular success of her “Raven Cycle” series, but I can tell you now that she did it by changing gears completely. All the Crooked Saints is a love letter to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, and all of the other South American writers for whom the veil between the rational world and the world of infinite possibilities is gossamer-thin. Stiefvater’s new work is soaked in magical realism, which means that I am all in from page one. However, the old-world feel of this 1960s story is also shot through with Maggie’s own sly, winking humor. Brilliantly conceived characters and a complex, desperate plot are told through a filter woven of Latino culture and the intricacies of a singular family legacy.

This novel will be available in October, 2017. Highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I read a signed advance reader copy of this book, which I obtained at SLJ’s Day of Dialog. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Book Expo 2016

 

BEA vendor hall

Just a Tiny Corner of the Vendor Hall

Vast spaces with advertising banners flapping overhead, thousands of vendors tastefully hawking books and book-related technology, and many more thousands of women and men setting up appointments with their chiropractors on their cellphones as they juggle canvas bags of heavy books that they couldn’t resist adding to the piles of unread galleys they already have at home: it’s another Book Expo America.

BEA venueMcCormick Place in Chicago—the West Building, specifically—hosted us this year as we attended excellent sessions with esoteric names such as “Innovation in Children’s Publishing” and “The Story Starts Here: Humor Edition” while navigating escalators and paying outrageous amounts of money for water. BEA started as a conference for publishers and booksellers, particularly for the adult market. However, over the years they seem to be catching on to the fact that libraries spend a lot of money on books, and that the children’s market—especially the exploding YA segment—can be lucrative, too. Two years ago, in New York, there were just a few valuable events for me, but this year, I had a hard time getting to the vendor floor between sessions, although two exceptional events were added the very week before the conference.

Kwame Alexander hug

Kwame and me: we’re best buds.

By the late afternoon on Thursday, the day after the Day of Dialog and Children’s Author Dinner, I was beginning to flag. I had been rained on during the river architecture tour in the morning, had attended several good sessions at McCormick Place and had even done a conquering tour of the vendor floor. Somewhere along the way, I got wrapped up in a bear hug by the amazing Kwame Alexander, Newbery-winning author of Crossover. He’s expanded to picture books now! At the end of the day, the thought of walking across the indoor bridge to the Hyatt Regency for Scholastic’s Picture Book Event was daunting, but I figured I could nurse my blisters later. I’m so glad I made the effort! Three outstanding authors and illustrators greeted us there: David Shannon, Tom Lichtenheld, and Kate Beaton. All of these are much-loved authors, and you can imagine how much fun picture book folks would be.

Picture Book Panel

Kate Beaton, David Shannon, and Tom Lichtenheld

There were musical numbers with audience participation, reader’s theater, and hilarious slide shows. We received galleys of Shannon’s new Duck on a Tractor, Lichtenheld’s Groovy Joe: Ice Cream & Dinosaurs, and Beaton’s King Baby. I had to laugh when Kate Beaton talked about the stages of life on Facebook: you go for years in college when you have nothing but pictures of young adults partying, etc. Then suddenly, your friends get married and their posts are nothing but baby pictures, and you roll your eyes in disgust. Then your sister has a baby, and your Facebook page is nothing but baby pictures, too—but nobody else’s baby is as cute or smart as yours. They left us with terrific gifts, including a signed and illustrated print of all three book covers in a wooden frame, which is now hanging near my desk.

Thursday evening was all about the Sourcebooks cocktail party in the Hancock Tower that I wrote about in my first Chicago blog, so it was serious work, of course.

Torch Against the NightFriday started early, back at McCormick Place for the Children’s Author Breakfast. Let me just state here that the fees for the meals at BEA must go to the speakers, because the menus are a low-carber’s nightmare. Mini-bagels, sweet breads, and fruit. I had had some yogurt back at the hotel, just in case, so I started off this breakfast by popping the top off the coffee carafe and pouring it all over the tablecloth, my purse, and my slacks. I did manage to miss my colleague, thank goodness. The day did improve. Jamie Lee Curtis, who is one of the few celebrities to write children’s books that are truly literary, hosted a panel that included Dav Pilkey, Sabaa Tahir, and Gene Luen Yang, all of whom are brilliant and gave fascinating speeches. Ms. Curtis shared with the audience that her severely challenged son, who is now twenty, could not read until he met Captain Underpants, and so now she has a soft place in her heart for Dav Pilkey. She choked up, they embraced, and the audience wept and had more coffee. Ms. Tahir spun stories of her childhood as a bullied Muslim girl growing up in the American western desert, where her father owned a hotel. I achieved my objective of acquiring an additional copy of the much-anticipated A Torch Against the Night for a certain teen girl that I know who passionately adored Tahir’s debut, An Ember in the Ashes. Gene Luen Yang gave a rousing speech as this year’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, encouraging us to read outside of our comfort zones. I agree with him that our entire world would be a more peaceful place if we lived inside one another’s stories for a while and broadened our worldviews. In all, this author’s breakfast encapsulated the heart of children’s literature: innocence, suffering, laughter, and compassion.

After meeting a favorite author by chance on the vendor floor, sharing stories at a session with the Unshelved guys and other librarians, and setting up a shipping box to send all of my loot home ahead of me, I went to the ABA-CBC Children’s Author Speed Dating Lunch, and this, as mentioned in my last post, is where I geeked out. Here is how author speed dating works: all the participants are assigned to a numbered table, and the authors move from table to table, pitching their latest works for five minutes until the bell rings and they move to the next table and start again. Often, the authors are fairly new or even debut authors. It’s fun, and the tables are piled high with gift copies of their books, just in case you haven’t set up that appointment with your chiropractor yet.

David Arnold.jpg

David Arnold

I had never eaten a meal during speed dating before, and it was tricky. You can’t put food in your mouth while the author is talking, since that seems rude, so you’re stuffing forkfuls of salad in while they walk to the next table. Our second author had just sat down and was plunging into his spiel in a panicked manner, since he had just realized at his first table that the bell rings far too soon. Something he said made me think, “Oh, my gosh, is this…?” as I craned my neck to see his nametag while frantically trying to swallow my lettuce. Then I blurted out, “Oh, my gosh, are you David Arnold?” He stopped talking and nodded, wide-eyed, as if caught in the act of being himself. “Oh, I just loved Mosquitoland so much and forced so many people to read it!” KidsLogoORIGINALFILEI gestured to his new book, Kids of Appetite, and he started talking again. At the end, I asked him if he was signing galleys and got all the info about where he would be. In the meantime, the very dignified woman to my right took over all author comments, since I’m sure she was convinced that I could not behave in a professional manner. This turned out to be a good thing, since I could not say a word later when Arthur A. Levine, a publisher himself, sat down to talk about his new book, What a Beautiful Morning. I could not help crying the whole time, which made him tear up, so the woman on my right was probably in despair that our entire table would be disgraced. This luncheon turned out to be much more wonderful than I expected, so Friday was becoming an excellent day.

Kids of AppetiteAfter this event, I hauled my armloads of books up two flights and immediately got in line at the Penguin booth to get David Arnold to sign Kids of Appetite. There was another line for Sabaa Tahir, but when asked if I wanted to join it, I said, “Oh, I’ve already seen her” in a lofty manner and went to Arnold’s line. I was probably the oldest person in either line, but I probably spend more money on books than any of them, so I felt justified. When I got to the front, he remembered me from the luncheon, since I was so memorable to all the witnesses, and he asked me if I wanted the book to be personalized. I said, “Hey, I did not walk all this way and stand in a line for just a signature!” So he very nicely wrote a bit in it. (I have already finished this book and will post a review later. Hint: thumbs up.)

Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater

The very last session I attended at BEA was the APA Audio Authors’ Tea. Do you know what they served at this tea? Tea. Lipton’s. Regular or decaf. There were also some cookies that I ignored, but seriously, Lipton’s? When I went to Orlando for the Baker & Taylor Vendor Summit, they had a glorious selection of teas set out all the time between sessions. Here, I actually paid for the session and got Lipton’s. Oh, well, I really paid for the event because it featured (drumroll…) Maggie Stiefvater! There were others, too, of course: Terry McMillan, John Scalzi, and Michael Koryta, so no small potatoes. All were great, and discussed the special considerations that go into making recordings of books, which I have found fascinating since touring the Recorded Books studio a couple of years ago in New York. Maggie looks like a character in one of her books, and I hung on her every word. I am so glad that I was able to finish The Raven King—the last of the “Raven Cycle”— before seeing her, and I can’t wait to see what this amazingly creative author serves up next.

And that was it! I shipped off my box of goodies and joined my group of colleagues and my husband for that boisterous final meal of octopus that I wrote about in my first Chicago post. I was able to meet so many of my favorite authors, confer with other professionals, and continue to increase my respect for hardworking publisher reps, and throughout the week, several themes seemed to come to the forefront over and over again. I hope to write about those in a later post.

Thanks to all who made Book Expo America possible!

__________________

The very sophisticated photos of David Arnold and Maggie Stiefvater are from Google searches, probably by very expensive professional photographers. The photo of Kwame Alexander and me is from Baker & Taylor’s Facebook page, courtesy of Jill Faherty of Baker & Taylor’s Children and Teen Services.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Books and reading

The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness

Rest of Us Just Live HereMike is not one of the indie kids. He and his friends never interacted with the vampires a few years back, or the ghosts a few years before that. They just go to high school, work at local restaurants, and deal with their parents. The indie kids wear black clothes, engage in a lot of angst and despair, and listen to jazz while reading poetry. Unfortunately, they also die a lot.

Sure, Mikey and his family have their share of problems. Mike has OCD to the point that he washes his hands until they crack and bleed. His older sister, Mel, is recovering (maybe) from anorexia, and their father is an alcoholic. Meredith, the youngest, is a genius and is the best at dealing with their politically-driven mother. Mike’s closest friend, Jared, is a great guy with the added bonus of being able to heal people a little bit, probably as a side effect of being one-quarter god. God of the Cats, that’s Jared. He has a soothing presence, but there is the issue of all the cats that follow him around to worship him. The new kid, Nathan, is impossibly handsome and might be an indie kid, or it could just be that Mikey hates him because Henna is smitten with Nathan, and Mike is in love with Henna. Maybe.

Patrick Ness never does anything the same way anyone else does, and furthermore, he never does anything the way he has done it before. In this new genre-bashing novel, he begins each chapter with a stylized, new age, poetic fantasy paragraph, such as this:

CHAPTER THE SECOND, in which indie-kid Satchel writes a poem, and her mom and dad give her loving space to just feel what she needs to; then an indie kid called Dylan arrives at her house, terrified, to say a mysterious glowing girl has informed him of the death of indie kid Finn; Satchel and Dylan comfort each other, platonically. (p. 11)

Following these chapter headings, we continue the story of Mike and his family and friends in which exactly none of the things above happen. Is this just the author’s little joke? Oh, no. Is he just making fun of YA literature? Well, yes. Ness manages to tell one or two narratives that are serious and believable, with tongue tucked firmly in cheek and one bizarre plot twist after another. It’s a YA problem novel with fantasy and loads of sarcasm laced with empathy. It’s as if John Green and Maggie Stiefvater each wrote opposite parts of the novel, making fun of each other as they went. (Which I’m sure they would never do, of course, because they have the utmost respect for one another’s brilliant work and for one another as fine human beings.)

So fun, so well done. A Printz winner? Maybe.

Highly recommended for older teens and adults who read enough YA to get the inside jokes. One not-at-all-graphic sex scene and a bit of foul language.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book (which means I bought 17 of them). Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue Lily Lily BlueBlue Sargent is struggling to deal with her life since her mother disappeared, while Raven Boy Richard Gansey III gets a visit from old Professor Malory, a friend from England who has come to assist him in his continued search for an ancient Welsh king believed to have been buried in the Virginia mountains. The quest for the king has to be connected to Blue’s mother, one of the supernaturally gifted women with whom Blue grew up.

This third book of the “Raven Cycle” slowly develops the relationships among all the characters as they move into their senior year of school and realize that their lives may diverge permanently in just a few months. Blue comes to realize whom she truly loves, and yet she remembers that if she kisses her one true love, he will die. Adam is now supernaturally bound to Cabeswater, the forest where the king is buried, and it is wearing him down and yet strengthening him inwardly so that he can finally face his father in court. Ronan Lynch, who was a lead character in The Dream Thieves, is still as angry as ever, but more able to deal with reality than before the self-revelations of that volume. And Noah is, well, becoming a little more dead all the time.

There are new characters, as well. Professor Malory is brilliant and disheveled, as all old professors should be, and Jesse Dittley, the mountain man, is hilarious, endearing, and surprisingly wise. Other new characters are quite wicked and nasty, and Ms. Stiefvater does not flinch in fully exposing evil in all its ugliness. She is somehow able to mix scenes of thoughtful introspection or meaningful conversations with breathless chase scenes, incredibly tense drama, and unexpected heartbreak.

Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater

If you have not had the pleasure of reading “The Raven Cycle,” you should run out and get The Raven Boys and start there. Cautions are that it is very dark and deals with witchcraft and related topics, such as cursed tombs and fantastical creepiness. This is not to say that it is not also delightful and sometimes humorous, though. In one scene, one of Blue’s crazy aunts is being attacked, and her main concern is that she not spill the Manhattan that she just poured. My dad used to love Manhattans in the winter, so we have been drinking Manhattans in our house ever since I read this passage. Maggie Stiefvater is one of the finest young adult writers out there, and although I do not read many series all the way through, I got this one the day it came out and read it before all of the other forty books on my nighttable. She does not disappoint.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews